Olive Oil on Bread, Rollerblading, and Roseanne

Rollerblading.

I still do it.  I have skated over 21,000 miles.  I’m still trying to get a feel for the trails here in South Florida, and I have to say skating here could be better.

When you build a path that is due East/West and due North/South, you’re going to have one direction that you are with the wind on your back, another that it is in your face.  Just the way it is when the winds come off the ocean pretty predictably.

But, it’s here, and I’m in paradise, and I can skate.   So I do.  Push myself with a heart rate that feels like I am slacking if it is only at 160, and I have seen it peak over 200.

Sounds excessive?  Maybe.  If you hear “He went while he was skating” just think “He went doing something he loves”.

It wears through wheels quickly, and since you can’t really find proper racing wheels easily these days since the sport died around 2003…

(Hey!  Where did everyone go?)

The idea of going to My Favorite Skate Shop is done.  I didn’t like paying $6 a wheel when I would have to replace 2 after two workouts and I’d do 4 workouts a week.

I know… blah blah blah.  It’s safe to say that I easily have more skate parts in Wilton Manors than any other place in town.  That box has enough bearings to last into the next millennium and it’s packed solid with replacement wheels of five different sizes.

I had this conversation with myself without realizing I was actually vocalizing it the other night.  I was sitting on the couch half watching Roseanne trying to write in her basement and commiserating with her character that no matter how good it is, sometimes you just can’t do what you love. 

Then I realized I was having that conversation with someone in the house.   Writing can be hard.  You hit a writer’s block and you need a topic.  It’s what others call A Muse, but I am not really good enough for a Muse. 

“Why don’t you write about Olive Oil in restaurants.  You always complain about that and you haven’t had a good Rant in a while”.

Nobody really wants to hear about that.

You see I have a major problem with being presented a small dish of olive oil and sometimes herbs or balsamic vinegar with the implication that I’m expected to put it on a piece of bread. 

First off it looks like something I drained from the crankcase of my Jeep. 

Who ever got the idea that it is oh so very wonderful to dip a piece of bread into a puddle of motor oil and yard sweepings needs to sit over there in the corner with their face pointed into the wall.  Now, just wait, I’ll go get my baseball bat and re-enact a scene from The Godfather.

No.  Just no.  Not ever.  Bring me the butter.  period.  Unsalted if you have it, Salted if you don’t.  If you don’t have butter, take the damn bread away.

I actually said the motor oil comment in a posh restaurant once.

Excuse me, but do you have any butter?
“Sorry, No.”
Then can you take the bread away?
“Sorry, No.”

She sniffed and spun around on her heels and left.

I think she may have had an idea when I insisted on our leaving a pointedly small tip.  I haven’t been back.  I won’t go back.  Rudeness is never an option in business or in clients.

I don’t care if you personally think it’s the best thing on your sliced bread since sliced bread.  I don’t care if it is trendy.  No.  Just, No.

The idea of sticking a piece of bread into a “Fine reduction of balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices, and extra virgin olive oil” leaves me cold and a side order of wanting to lose the last particular meal I was fortunate enough to eat.

Yes, I understand it is a first world problem.  There are people starving, even in the same city I am in.  There are more important things to concern yourself with than someone’s affectations.  But, in a restaurant, I know somewhere there is butter.

Bring it or the waitress’s tip dies.

Is it old school?  Last Millennium?  So very last century?

Who the hell cares, bring it.  It’s called Service.  Not Motor Oil on a plate.  I’d rather eat that push-wheel off the back of the skate than put that glop on a piece of a baguette.

“So why don’t you write about that?  I would love to hear about it!”

No, it would just sound like a rant about how food trends are annoying and distracting from the actual quality of the preparation and the food itself.

“But why not?”.

We will see.  Let the mind roll and see what spills out.  It was exactly what I was saying to the TV.  Write what you know, you will get something better out of that than if you forced yourself to write to someone’s affectations about what you should or shouldn’t do.

That whole controlling thing.  People don’t want to be controlled, especially when they are paying for the privilege of it all.

Just like a little porcelain bowl filled with Fine Herbs, Spices, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a Special Balsamic Reduction.

I’ll take whatever the chef’s got for butter, please.

Thanks.

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So Why Is Your Dog In A Restaurant and Out Of Control?

You have a “Designer Dog“.  A little bit of a thing not much larger than a Beanie
Baby or a Teddy Bear.

Maybe you have your own macho designs and have a bully breed.  Plops down next to you wherever you go.  Loyal dog who will walk through fire for you.

Could be a mid sized dog, a terrier or a collie
Amazing dogs of high intelligence that can do tricks, but also capable of reason and problem solving.

Great.  I don’t want to hear them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a dog owner who likes taking my dog out around town.  When I heard that the restaurants in the neighboring city of Fort Lauderdale allowed dogs in their outdoor areas, I knew bedlam was about to ensue.

Typically those people who insist their dogs come with them into restaurants or other crowded places like Shopping Malls treat their dogs as a “Child Analogue”.  They are trying to make a dog act like a child.   They have them in strollers – an annoying appliance in the best of times, or in a purse.  Ok, not necessarily a purse but a bag about the size I used to cram my gym gear in when I went for a workout.

Now that dog is forced to act unnaturally.  It is expected not to sniff the food as it goes by.  It is expected not to jump when the waiter five tables over drops a dish a little too loudly in front of the patron.  It is expected that it is not going to be in the way while it sits in an aisle while you step on its tail or bump into it on that little purse looking thing that you have hanging on the corner of your chair.

“Your fault” you are told when the dog snaps at you for a misstep.

Here’s a better answer.  Leave the dog home.  If you can’t leave the dog home, take the dog for a ride, in the car, to the dog park and actually interact with the dog.  Both of you will be better for the experience.

The hardest part of having a dog that is learning fast how to be properly behaved is
to realize that not everyone else wants a dog but a fashion accessory.  When my own dog, Rack, who’s favorite thing in the world is to meet other dogs backs away from YOUR dog, I know there’s a major malfunction going on here. 

If your dog is barking at another dog 20 feet away on a street or sidewalk, your dog is in need of training, and you, personally, need some of it yourself.

A “Cute Little Yorkie” on an impossibly long leash in a crowd is an accident waiting to happen.  When that cute little Yorkie gets spooked and decides to bark its fool head off, don’t blame the boot when it finds the dog.

A bit severe? Perhaps, but you know what’s going on in the mind of that person right now who had the altercation with your “Sweet Little Dog”, right?

Person in a mall, good.  Dog in a mall, bad.
Person in a restaurant, good.  Dog in a restaurant, bad and probably unsanitary.

No, Ma’am I don’t want little Frou Frou’s fur in my Baked Cod.  Keep them at home.

By the way, in Wilton Manors, according to code, a Dog’s Leash may be no longer than 4 feet – no exceptions.   Since the code here is typically “borrowed” from other cities and towns which is standard, I would be willing to bet that is pretty much standard as well.

So how do I judge whether the person on the other end of the leash is balanced?

Look at the dog.  If that dog growls, jumps, barks, shows teeth – the person is at fault.  They put the animal in the place where there is a potential to harm – dog or person.  That Person is therefore at fault if the dog decides to bite.

They are also the first to tell YOU that you don’t have a right to be there.

Um, you’re kidding me, right?

When Wilton Manors allowed dogs in outdoor sections of restaurants, it was done with the proviso that if the dog is acting up, it will be removed and banned from the business.  Any damage that is caused to the premises will be the responsibility of the dog owner.

However, any damage to anyone else, two legged or four, caused by the dog renders the business liable, as well as the owner.  The business itself can be banned from allowing dogs on premises.

There’s a simple solution.  Keep your little fluffy furkid at home.  If you’re calling it your child, or your furkid, or anything else similar, you’re the problem and not the solution.  You are denying your dog’s natural born right – to be a dog.

While I strongly believe pets are family and should be treated with the same rights within reason as you or I, I have a right not to be molested in public by someone who doesn’t understand that it is not appropriate behavior to tie your little white dog to a bar stool and go get a beer.

Keep them at home, they won’t miss you that much.  If you think they do, then keep yourself there too or take them to a dog park.  There are too many unbalanced creatures in society as it is.

Two legged or Four.

Train your pets, love and enjoy them, and keep them from harm.  But please, leave them home.  I’m tired of correcting your dogs.

Iguana On The Deck

If you are in South Florida near fresh water, eventually you will see one of these beasts.

They don’t belong.  Green Iguanas are an invasive species here.  They’re a destructive pest that is disrupting the environment for those creatures that actually do belong here.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t be entertaining.

It probably means that the winter didn’t get cold enough to kill the things off.

I described that process as the Iguana Rain before – it gets below 45F and they’re stunned by the cold.  Their metabolism slows down and their muscles let go.  Then they will fall from the trees.

Mind you, it’s not a gentle fall, but one that most survive.

The people in Trinidad and Tobago swear by Curried Iguana Tail, and they are welcome to the creatures.

All these thoughts went through my head.  I was sitting in the window seat indoors at the Indian restaurant.  There is this little river or canal that is behind the place on Griffin road.  The small development on the other side of the little river had people to watch.  Kevin went off to answer an emergency call, and I continued dining on savory-not-spicy Indian food made for a British and American palate. 

Not A Wall Of Heat Indian food is a treat.

I speared a little dough ball that tasted richly of honey and butter.  Looking out the window I got the picture taken of this green beast going about its life.  Adolescent four foot long lizard eating bugs that were in the sun.  Harmless where it was.

I was alone at the moment.  I spotted Kevin conducting his business from the parking lot.  He was chatting with someone who had left his phone at home.  The person who was to rescue the phone left it on the roof of the car and drove off.  Too much drama for my tastes, I keep my toys intact.

While the feeding went on both inside and outside, I spotted another Iguana across the river on a tree branch.  We do live around a lot more wildlife here in the middle of the South Florida Sprawl than you might expect.  Toads, Iguanas, Boa Constrictors, and native species are all over the place.  A Road Pizza could be any of those and more.

Looking at the tree I noticed a stray parrot in the sun, squawking at the lizard.  It is better in the trees, but it too didn’t belong.  Yet another great great grandchild of a released former pet.  They get out into the wild here and once the genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult to put it back, if not impossible.

I hear the little old British Lady at the next table go on a bit longer than would be polite about not having Her Pink Packet to sweeten the rather excellent Iced Tea that I was drinking some of.  I’m sure she had her own stash in her rather large purse, but people do have their tastes, even if it was questionable.

Spearing another large bite of a fried vegetable ball, I hear the other British Woman tell the first that she was being “a bit churlish” and that she should calm down since the Iguana that she was now obsessing over was on the other side of the glass.

Greeted by my faithful sidekick, Kevin, who asks how the meal is?

Wonderful of course.  But I did miss my Mango Lassi.
Did you see the iguanas?
Yes, so did the woman behind you.  Said with an Eye Roll.
It didn’t get cold enough to get rid of them this year.
Are you getting dessert?  The Donut balls are excellent and the Mango Pudding I would love to try to make at home!

He was full, and I was over full.  That meal was responsible for a few extra groans that it would take a day and a half to get rid of.

One of the children from that table way over there had gotten out and wandered to the back deck.
Smart Iguana decided it had warmed enough and dove for the water.

We weren’t going to solve all of the invasive wildlife problems today, but we did get a rather excellent meal.

So did the iguana.

Pinche Taqueria’s New Chef Cooked Up An Improvement

When it comes to Mexican Food, I’m fond of quoting a scene from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

Mr Bourdain took his friend, the Chief Chef at Les Halle in Manhattan to visit his mother in Mexico.  She had them over for a “Traditional Mexican Dinner” and there was one comment that this Abuelita made that sticks with me.  I’ll paraphrase it.   She said that she loved the fact that she could come to the United States and get good Mexican food but “It’s too Spicy Up There”.

Mexican Food has a rich heritage.  There are distinct regional specialties.  The food that the Abuelita was used to eating and making in Manzanillo will be quite different than that in Mexico City for example.   What we are used to in the United States is Tex Mex.   Tex Mex has it’s own charm but I’ve found I really don’t care for the heat either.

I prefer Savory and that is what Pinche Taqueria has been making since they opened.  I’ll leave that Five Alarm Chili to the rest of you, I came to the conclusion that Food Shouldn’t Hurt.

When I go to a Mexican restaurant, for me it is usually Pork.  Specifically Carnitas, which is a savory mix of slow cooked Pork and spices.  Served on a flour tortilla open faced with some onion and perhaps cilantro, the salsa will be on the side.   Mild for me, Spicy for everyone else I guess.

I first went to Pinche Taqueria on Wilton Drive across from City Hall before the Official Opening and a few times after that.   I found that their Carnitas had the right spices, but was a wee bit on the dry side. 

All that has changed.  They now have a new head chef, and he knows what he’s doing with my Pork!

The spice mix is still what I expect in my Carnitas, but there was a change in the preparation.  It was moist.  Before it was indifferently overcooked, now it was simply wonderful. 

The new head chef was the person who led the kitchen at the nearby Alibi for the last couple years.  Under his guidance, Alibi bar has won the Best Burger in Broward competition.  I can vouch for that burger as well, it is excellent. 

Now at Pinche Taqueria, his creativity and strength shows through.   There’s a new menu, and a new technique at making the food.  It’s done quite well and I’ll absolutely go back.  Their Fish Tacos were great before, and I’m looking forward to see what he’s done with them.   They were moist and tasty before, but I can only expect them to be better.

The reviews on Yelp certainly show the change.  People were not coming back and changing the chief Chef absolutely had an effect.  The Chips are crisp, the Portions are larger, the food better prepared.

Oh one last one thing – if you do go there, have the Mojito.  Unlike everywhere else I have had a Mojito, this was sweet but not syrupy.   You can actually taste the flavors of all the ingredients instead of feeling like you are drinking flavored corn syrup.  If there is a drinks competition, their Mojito wins, at least with me.

Pinche Taqueria Grand Opening In Wilton Manors

Last night was a fiesta in Wilton Manors.

Pinche Taqueria had opened a few weeks back quietly after turning an old storefront into something that would not be out of place at any beach town.  The front was pushed back, the old school windows were removed, and big green “garage doors” were installed. 

How better to enjoy the Florida Breezes than to sit at a table, enjoy your food and drinks, and watch the entertainment of the crowd or the TVs on the wall?

They had said that they didn’t want to have their grand opening “until it was perfect”.

They are now there, last night’s food was perfect – even with the size of the crowd that were there to celebrate the event.

I had been there within a week of their opening, and then again two weeks later, and each time the food was noticeably better.  Last night it was incredible.

The place was packed with many local notables that I have seen from the City of Wilton Manors, as well as some of the neighboring cities.  Many more of the locals were there enjoying the scene. 

I got to see City Commissioner Scott Newton and his wife Cindy, Celeste Ellich, and others that I recognized from many other places.  It was the place to be last night.

Of course this being a Mexican Taqueria, they had a Mariachi Band there, and the band was a blast!  The musicians had a lot of personality, and were serenading us as we got our food and rubbed shoulders with the folks at the next table.

Yes, it was a very busy night, as you might expect.

The food was excellent, we will definitely be back.  I’ve gone on the weekend for lunch, mainly.  The food is quite authentic Classic Mexican fare as their history bares out.  I was told that it started as a taqueria in Tijuana Mexico.  They took the place, Lock, Stock, and Barrel to New York City where it was a success.  Some of the most discerning customers in the world live there, and if you can make it there like the song says, you can make it anywhere – but only if you’re doing it right.

They did it right, they grew past their first restaurant into a second and began to look for another place to open and chose Wilton Manors. 

Many cuisines when brought to the United States end up being a bit of a split personality.  We’ve all heard that Chinese Restaurants will have a “Secret Menu” that “only the locals” will get, but that is the best food and the most authentic. 

With Pinche Taqueria we’re all locals, getting only the best.

I have a strong preference for Carnitas, savory pork that isn’t “too spicy” served on a soft Taco or a Tostada.  They have one of the best that I have ever had.  Last night I had their signature Crab Taco with Mango Salsa.  It was simply put, amazing. 

If you’re looking for something to wash it all down, skip the bottled stuff, and get a Mojito.  A Mojito is typically a syrupy sweet Lime and Mint beverage with alcohol.  When they make it, you get a crisp and clear Lime drink with a little minty sweetness – but it’s not tooth achingly sweet.  It’s the best Mojito I have ever had, and I was never really a fan of the drink until I had it there because of that sweetness.  You can actually taste the lime and the mint. 

So definitely I will be back, and as demanding as I am, I can fully recommend a stop in for the Carnitas Taco, some chips and a Mojito.   I may even get their signature dish again, that Crab was amazing!

It’s a great place to sit back and enjoy some time with some amazing food and drink.  Right across from City Hall in Wilton Manors at 2020 Wilton Drive, in the heart of the Arts and Entertainment District here.